REEES Alumnus Zach Claybaugh Discusses His New Book, “A Research Guide to Southeastern Europe: Print and Electronic Sources” and His REEEC Experience

A little bit about myself

I am currently the OER (Open Educational Resources) & Digital Learning Librarian at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. I live in Stratford, CT with my lovely wife Megan Osfar, our dog Charlie, and our cat Daphne. I am originally from Minnesota, but I grew up in Amarillo, TX. I attended undergrad at West Texas A&M University, a small campus in the A&M system in Canyon, TX. After a little wandering from an undeclared major to an English major, I eventually settled in as a History major. In my first semester as a History major, I took a class on the long nineteenth century with Dr. Elizabeth Morrow Clark, a specialist in the history of the Free City of Danzig, which sparked my interest in Russian and East European History in general and Southeastern Europe specifically.

After graduation from WT, I moved to Minnesota and got my Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certification from Hamline University in St. Paul. I taught adult ESL in a variety of spots in the Twin Cities. After getting some experience as a teacher in an ESL setting, I got a job teaching middle school at an international school in Tirana, Albania. I spent a year teaching in Tirana, traveling around Albania, visiting Italy, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, and Kosovo, and further developing my knowledge of and interest in Southeastern Europe. After returning to the United States, I taught middle school social studies in Florida for a few years and ultimately decided to head back to school.

I got into the REEES MA program, attended Indiana University’s Summer Language Workshop (SWSEEL) prior to arriving in Urbana-Champaign for a summer of intensive Albanian language study, and got to U of I for the fall 2008 semester.

How has the REEES degree helped me professionally

The REEES MA helped me professionally and personally. I established long-term friendships with two REEES grads, Urszula Lechtenberg (née Biegaj), who I currently work with at Sacred Heart University Library, and Devon Lechtenberg, who created the maps and cover image for my upcoming book. Through REEEC I was finally able to be a part of a scholarly community that was interested in the same things I was. I was able to take classes with some of the most prominent scholars in their respective fields. For a guy from Amarillo, TX that followed the work of people like Maria Todorova and Keith Hitchins, it was a pretty awesome experience to be a student in their academic world.

REEEC connected me with what was at the time the Slavic and East European Library and the staff at the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library, which helped to further my interest in librarianship. I also can’t stress how important my language training while at REEEC was and still is. There is no way I would have been able to tackle a project like this if it hadn’t been for studying Albanian and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian while I was a REEES MA student and being exposed to so many other languages of the region.

What have you been doing since your time at REEEC?

Following my time as a graduate student at REEEC, I jumped into another graduate program at the University of Illinois, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS), now called the iSchool, to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science. My interest in libraries and area studies emerged at the same time as an undergraduate at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, TX in the early 2000s, so it seemed like a natural movement going from an area studies program to a library science program as a graduate student.  While at GSLIS, I had the good fortune to get an assistantship working in the University Library at the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library. This was a fantastic experience in that I was able to take many of the skills I was learning in the classroom and apply them directly into practice in my work as a graduate assistant. Additionally, I had the great fortune to work with an excellent group of librarians at SSHEL like Nancy O’Brien, Beth Sheehan, Dan Tracy, Cindy Ingold, and Peg Burnette who helped me become the librarian I am today.

The merging of my REEEC experience and my growing skills in librarianship really paid dividends when I was recommended to Kit Condill, currently the Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies Librarian at the International & Area Studies Library, and Collections Management Librarian Jennifer Maddox Abbott to work with the non-Russian language materials in the University Library’s Slavic backlog. I really see this as the training ground for gaining the skills needed to produce my upcoming book, A Research Guide to Southeastern Europe: Print and Electronic Sources. For about a year I worked to identify, organize, and assist in cataloging thousands of print materials in over a dozen languages and make them finally discoverable and available to researchers after years of lying dormant. I gained in comfort working with materials in languages across Europe and Central Asia. My REEEC experience, particularly language training in Albanian and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and exposure to a variety of languages from across the region, helped prepare me for this kind of project and gave me confidence that I could do the work.

Following graduation from GSLIS, I got a job as the Digital Learning Initiatives Librarian, now the OER (Open Educational Resources) & Digital Learning Librarian, at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. My work really spans the breadth and depth of academic librarianship. I do a lot of instruction, work with colleagues on developing library programming, occasionally help faculty navigate the academic publishing world, work on library assessment, collection development, and I work as an advocate on campus for open educational resources.

While I love the work I do with faculty and students at Sacred Heart, it doesn’t often give me the opportunity to delve into area studies, and I found that that was something I still wanted to be a part of my life. About six months after I started at Sacred Heart, I responded to a call for proposals from Rowman & Littlefield to pitch book ideas that fit into their research guides group of publications. This was the type of book, focused on Southeastern Europe, that I had often thought would be a lot of fun to work on, and I knew there was a definite need for this type of publication. While at REEEC, I had spent enough time around people doing dissertation work in a variety of disciplines, many with topics focused on Russia and Eastern Europe, to know that half the battle is often figuring out where to find materials, so I knew there was a potential audience for this type of work. I put a proposal together and it was accepted. Roughly three years later, the work is being published. My hope is that the book can fill the gap that exists for a multidisciplinary guide to resources of interest to those researching Southeastern Europe.

More about the Book

Here is the back-cover summary of the book:

“A Research Guide to Southeastern Europe: Print and Electronic Sources” is designed to aid those interested in exploring this dynamic region in locating the best resources available, whether looking for archival collections in Albania or dissertations and theses in Greece. It provides readers with up-to-date information on a variety of research collections from more than twenty countries and in more than a dozen languages. The focus of the volume is on the modern era, primarily the eighteenth century to the present. It covers the subject areas of the humanities and social sciences—though researchers outside of the subject and temporal scope of the work will find information of use—and the countries of Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova (including the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic), Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey. This volume is distinctive in that it is the only bibliographic resource that offers such extensive subject, linguistic, and regional treatment. This book is composed of five chapters and three appendixes. The chapters are focused on research materials, providing access points for critical materials on Southeastern Europe in both in print and digital formats from libraries, archives, journals, and databases. The appendixes focus on library classification, educational programming geared to language instruction, and transliteration of non-Latin scripts.”

An endorsement from Dr. Maria Todorova:

“This invaluable guide will help researchers navigate the difficult waters of a notoriously complex region, with geographic and thematic stopovers at libraries, archives, journals, and online research databases. We are all in debt to Claybaugh for this Sisyphean labor.” —Maria Todorova, Gutgsell Professor of History, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Link to the book from the publisher:


Zach Claybaugh is an alumnus of the REEES MA program. His first book, A Research Guide to Southeastern Europe: Print and Electronic Sources, will be published next month by Rowman & Littlefield.


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